Republicans beware: The 'blue wave' is already changing red states

Republicans beware: The 'blue wave' is already changing red states
© Moriah Ratner

Democrats may pick up a significant number of congressional seats in November. Some former solid-red districts may tick a few shades bluer, especially with a wave of GOP retirements. 

Sound apocalyptic? No. It’s simply that demographics are destiny. Waves of left-leaning voters are moving from blue areas like New York, Boston, Chicago and parts of California to red areas like New Hampshire, Texas, North Carolina. The ultimate end result? The voting patterns and policies that ruined Democratic-dominated regions will shift to traditionally Republican areas.

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Domestic migration patterns have sparked significant changes in electoral politics. Bostonians and endearingly-monikered “Massholes” have already changed New Hampshire from blood-red in the Reagan era to part-pink. The “Live Free or Die” state boasts a low cost of living and no income tax, which continues to attract residents from across New England. From July 2016 to July 2017, the rate of population growth in the state increased 60 percent from the previous year. During that year, "the number of people moving in from other states was 4,700 higher" in New Hampshire than the number of people who moved out, the AP reports.

 

By contrast, from July 2014 to July 2015 alone, Massachusetts had a net loss in domestic migration of nearly 22,000 residents. Almost 25 percent of N.H. residents were born in the Bay State, according to a 2008 report. So many families jump the border each year that the Granite State may soon be a “suburb of Boston,” as one Massachusetts news outlet described. 

Sure, Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE almost carried the state in 2016, but alarming underlying issues lurk. More than 6,500 voters in the 2016 election registered with an out-of-state driver’s license, according to a New Hampshire state report. Trump ended up losing the state by fewer than 3,000 votes.

Colorado, traditionally a battleground state, now leans left, with the state voting Democrat for the last three presidential and gubernatorial contests. Prior to that, from 1968 through 2004, Republicans won the state’s electoral votes nine of ten times. Currently, Democrats have a 36-29 lead in the state House of Representatives and hold the governor’s mansion. Migration patterns can help explain this political shift: In 2015 alone, more than 29,000 Golden Staters and 11,000 Illinois residents moved to Colorado.

Meanwhile, in Texas — yes, Texas! — the state’s consequential 7th Congressional District is turning blue before residents’ eyes. The district voted 56 percent Republican in the 2016 Texas House race. In 2014?63 percent. But it may not turn red again in November’s midterms. It’s now a top priority for national Democrats this fall.

These geopolitical patterns create what I call the “locust theory.” Residents of Democratic states get frustrated with high costs of living, regulations and taxes and move to better economic conditions in GOP-dominated areas. However, these domestic migrants bring their voting habits with them without even considering why they left their original homes.

Look at Colorado. What happened there may be the model for the next several generations of politics in current red states. The Centennial State passed a raft of controversial gun measures and is now looking to do more, including six month gun seizures. Meanwhile, the state is seriously considering an increase in sales taxes.

Washington state was also a battleground state until recently. In 2004, Washington was the home of one of the closest governor’s races in history — only 129 votes divided the two candidates. Presidential races traditionally have been tight in the state, too. George W. Bush garnered almost 46 percent of the vote in 2004, while Trump eked out just 36.8 percent in 2016. No income tax and a surprising libertarian streak helped Washington to more than double its population in the last 45 years. Today, Seattle is the fastest growing large city in the nation.

Yet, during recent years, a mix of new California emigresTrust Funders, and artists just waiting for their big gallery show brought the state off the deep end. 

It’s passed an 11.9 cent gas tax increase and considered (but did not pass) a $10/ton carbon tax this year. Olympia is considering a sharp capital gains tax as well as a 20 percent surcharge on real estate brokerage, internet access, daycare (!), and more. For a state with no income tax, Washington is now ranked 34th out of 50 in total individual tax burden, according to the Tax Foundation. 

That’s not to mention the People’s Republic of Seattle itself, which seemingly is seeking its own economic destruction. It passed a sugary drink tax of 1.75 cents an ounce that increased prices over 50 percent, a large property tax increase, and an infamous “head tax” that could sink the major roles Amazon and Starbucks play in the home of the Sky Needle. For homeowners facing a nearly 17 percent tax increase in a single year in King County, where Seattle is located, many just can’t do it anymore.

Nearby to Seattle, Pierce County seeks to offer employers a tax credit per employee for companies to move there. Spokane has no such plans. Even in the petri dish of Washington, the market acts as the preeminent equilibrium. The market always wins.

Time after time the basic equation holds. Localities and states that overtax and overregulate set in motion a self-feeding cycle. The more the area limits the free market, the more unlivable it becomes. As the economy falters, politicians often double down on their failed policies, causing families to leave en masse. Ironically, voters tired of the excess in Albany, Sacramento or Springfield bring the infection of big government with them to their new homes and set up models of the areas they left.

One of the most telling signs from the 2016 election was the surge of rural and suburban voters who had simply had enough and voted for Trump. It was a rallying cry that flipped Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and beyond. However, as many formerly solid-Republican states switch to the middle, and as moderate states swing far-left, the electoral calculus for state and federal races becomes more difficult for Republicans. Trump won five states by less than 1.5 percent of the vote, and the underlying demographics are not on the GOP's side. A stunning victory requires stunning lessons learned.

It’s often a no-win situation for Republicans. Successes at the state level brings in new residents without such a perspective, leading to economic despair.

For Democrats, it’s a fatal conceit. You can only ignore the laws of economics for so long. 

Kristin Tate is author of the new book "How Do I Tax Thee?: The Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off." Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.